North American Scholar
GOOLD, George Patrick
B.A. University of London, 1948; Ph.D., 1954.
- Professional Experience:
Lecturer in Classics, University of Hull, 1948-55; prof., University of Cape Town, 1955-57; asso. prof. University of Manitoba, 1957-60; asso. prof. to prof., University College, University of Toronto, 1960-65, prof. Greek & Latin, Harvard, 1965-73; chair Classics Dept., 1971-72; prof. Latin & Chair of Classics Dept., University College, University of London, 1973-78; prof. Classics, Yale, 1978-92; chair, Classics Dept., 1984-87; ed. HSCP, 1966-71; Guggenheim fellow, 1971; gen. editor, Loeb Classical Library, 1974- , Bonsall Visiting Professor of Humanities, Stanford, 1978; Gray Lecturer, Cambridge (UK), 1987; pres. APA, 1986; corresponding fellow, British Academy, 1994.
"M. Manilii Astronomicon Liber Primus: A Commentary on the First Book of Manilius to Which Is Added a Translation of the Whole Poem" (University of London, 1954).
George Goold was at heart a textual critic. The substantial articles he published, amounting to virtual monographs, for instance on Ovid's amatory works, on Propertius, and on Servius and the Aeneid, remain beacons of insight and enlightenment decades later. A keen student of the manuscripts, yet not a slave to them, he produced long series of textual improvements, of which perhaps the largest in scale was the demonstration that the twenty-three verses of the Helen episode, preserved only in some Servian manuscripts, were spurious and ought to be ejected from the text. These, along with other publications, were the fruits of his years at Harvard, where his work reached its apogee.
The metaphor is especially fitting, for he himself regarded as his crowning service to classics the study of the astrological poet Manilius, an interest which extended throughout his career, from his doctoral dissertation to a revised edition of his text for the Teubner series, and which included the precious Loeb volume, which first revealed to hundreds of readers the precise meaning and bearing and beauty of the somewhat obscure verse treatise. The current vitality of Manilian studies can be traced back inter alia to Goold's pioneering work.
Nearly all his scholarship was directed towards the elucidation of Latin poetic texts. For the Loeb Classical Library, he created or revised ten volumes besides the Manilius. In all his work he applied strong common sense to editorial decisions, about the most suitable form of the apparatus criticus for instance, and was always concerned about the presentation of material on the page: in this, simplicity and clarity were his lodestars.
Disapproving of any split between Greek and Latin, as he made clear in his inaugural lecture at University College London—where he was a successor, at several removes, to Housman—he also gave attention to Greek subjects. His address upon assuming the presidency of the American Philological Association concerned the original form of the Iliad. During his long and invigorating editorship of the Loeb Classical Library, he took it upon himself to add to that series an edition of Chariton's romance.
The orientation of classical studies towards textual criticism rather went out of fashion during the course of his career. Although Goold directed a number of dissertations in that field during eight years at Harvard, at Yale, where he taught for the last fifteen years of his career, he directed only one such. Given his focus on textual criticism, it might appear surprising to some that he was one of the first to embrace the application of the computer to classical studies. And yet, even in the age of printing, books remained so close to sacred for him that he hardly ever wrote in the margins of any.
When I congratulated him once on an emendation in Catullus, he refused to take much credit, claiming that the proposal was Bergk's, to which he had merely “added the schmalz.” Despite the homely self-description, Goold was in fact a superb stylist and rhetorician. A classicist who was not a particular admirer once remarked that ”he could deliver a lecture about buttons and bows in the ancient world and hold the audience spellbound.” No one who has read the opening paragraphs of the essay on Servius is likely to forget their riveting clarity and sweep, not to mention the entirely natural-seeming deployment of the word “anfractuousness.” He was so much at home in Latin that he could speak it comfortably, and a couple of his earliest publications were written in that language. His translations into English were enviably vigorous, nor was he less brilliant a stylist in Latin than in his native language, with the result that those fortunate enough to have studied Latin composition under him treasure with equal warmth his versions of the death of Cicero (from Livy, Book 120) and of the concluding paragraph of John F. Kennedy's Profiles in Courage.
In addition to all else, George was exceptionally conscious of responsibilities towards colleagues. Whether you were a former student submitting to his judgment the draft of a book or someone making his acquaintance with an article you had just published, you always got an acknowledgment without delay, and your work received, along with due criticism, unstinted praise of its strong points.
It may, then, justifiably be said of him, as of another intellectual, scholar, and stylist, vir magnus ac memorabilis fuit, et in cuius laudes exsequendas ipso laudatore opus fuerit.
NYTimes (24 January 2002); Times (London) (27 December 2001) 21; Yale Bulletin & Calendar 30, 15 (18 January 2002); DAS 8.3.197.
- Author: Joseph B. Solodow